Monday, October 25, 2010

It's been a couple of weeks...

It's been a couple of weeks since starting my experiment at cutting out processed food. For the most part, I've been having a lot of success.

The difference in cost seems to be pretty small. I might have to attribute that to my proximity to the Central Valley of California, though. Fresh asparagus for $1.47/lb? Sign me up! As of right now I'm eating a meal of pasta with, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and a few chives, all drizzled with balsamic vinegar and with a side of home-made wheat bread. Mmmmmm tasty. Actual prep time (not including the bread) was about 30 minutes, and for 3-4 adult size servings I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.

And the bread? Easy-peasy in the bread maker. It takes approximately 1 minute of prep time and then I push a button.

So what (if any) effects have I seen so far? Well, I'm down 3.5 lbs. I'm sure it's all water weight, which makes a ton of sense for having cut out as much processed stuff as possible. I don't even want to know how much salt is suddenly gone from my diet just by switching from Lean Cuisine lunches to fresh veggies and dinner leftovers. But my skin is also clearer. I have a tiny bit more energy. As in, I have enough energy to cook rather than simply enough to push a button on the microwave.

So far so good. Hopefully we can keep this up long enough for it to become habit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A New Direction

OK, so I've gotten off of the blogging train. Work and life have been so danged busy that I feel like I just haven't had it in me to compose, edit, and publish posts.

No more!

I'm going in a new direction here.

Last month my mom was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Yesterday she noticed symptoms that seemed to indicate a minor stroke. We're still not sure what happened, but at this point a stroke has been ruled out, and instead she seems to have had some nerve damage unrelated to the cancer. That's the good news. The bad news is that her cancer has been upgraded to stage IIIC, possibly stage IV.

The women in my mom's family don't have a history of breast cancer, which makes me wonder if it's primarily environmental for her (as opposed to, say, really bad luck). See, I've been doing some reading (and watching some documentaries) about how food production and farming have changed in the past 50 or so years. Long story short, fast food, processed food, portion servings, additives, etc. have changed the way food looks, tastes, nourishes, and is farmed. And some of the added chemicals are either known carcinogens or have unknown effects on the body (or there is conflicting evidence that it's either Really Bad For You or Totally Fine depending on who provides funding for the studies).

Since the Little Man has begun eating solid food, my husband and I have had discussions about what we should feed him as he gets older. Neither of us want to go gung-ho never-visit-McDonalds-ever-in-a-million-years, but we don't want to hit up the drive-thru very often, either. My mom's recent health problems really drove that point home. She told me once, after she lost 170 pounds after bariatric surgery, that she used to visit fast-food restaurants at least twice per day, every day for years - close to a decade. From what she told me I estimate that she spent roughly $100 per week, every week, on fast food.

The stuff with huge amounts of this processed, chemically soaked food-stuff.

Apart from the obesity, it makes me wonder how much of this fruit of chemical-food engineering contributed to her cancer and nerve damage. How much of this stuff will I be willing to feed my child? Heck, how much of it do I, personally, want to consume? And it's not just the fast food. It's the TV dinners, the boxes of rice with powdered spices, the ramen, the hot-dogs, the lunch meat, the "easy meals." How much of that am I willing to feed my family?

So after conversations with my husband we have decided to try to make a change as a family - before the kid has any inkling that Mom and Dad used to do things differently. First, we plan on going through our current pantry because, well, we can't afford to throw out all the processed stuff and start over. Then we take a good hard look at those food labels.

What we're going to try is to buy primarily things with 5 or fewer "ingredients" on the label - or at least no ingredients that I need to use my community-college chemistry knowledge to decipher. This will mean a lot more cooking. It will probably mean that I'll have to start making my own beef and chicken stocks. I already went out an invested in a bread machine ($15 at the local thrift store!) because it's just cheaper to make our own bread than buy the $4 fancy loaf at the grocery store.

I hear tell that it's actually cheaper to do it this way. Pre-packaged food is kind of expensive, right? I hear that we'll start feeling better physically, emotionally, and we'll have more energy. On that last point - gawd I hope so, because I work full-time with a 30 minute commute before and after work. Many times I come home and the last thing I want to do is work in the kitchen. We'll need to plan our meals better so that we don't end up with waste.

And once in a while we will go through the drive-thru. But hopefully it will become one of those special treats rather than an "Aw crap I don't feel like cooking tonight anyway" things.

It's an experiment, and my husband and I acknowledged in our conversation that many times we come up with these plans and then abandon them in short order. But I'm hoping that this wake-up call will be enough of a push to make eating healthy a priority for us.

So what I'm going to try to do here is document our progress. If I can come up with a quick and easy (and cheap) healthy meal for dinner I'll post the recipe. I'll post tips on how to cut costs. I'll let you know if those miracle side-effects actually materialize. And hopefully I'll be at this long enough to post updates to what a toddler will and won't tolerate as healthy food. Oh, and if I find a good brand of something or other that makes my life a billion times easier without breaking the bank I'll be sure to post that, too.

Sooooo for this week? It's the beginning...

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Little Man, Month 5

Pretty soon I'm going to have to give in and call you what Daddy calls you: the Big Man. You are growing so fast it blows me away.

  • First and foremost - you are now a mobile baby. You can scoot yourself army-crawl style to get to whatever you need. I don't know if this makes you more content or more frustrated, though, since you haven't quite mastered putting things in your mouth exactly the way you seem to want them.
  • You can sit up tall all by yourself!
  • Every once in a while I hear you trying out new sounds - bvv and muh seem to be the favorites these days.
  • You also figured out how to blow bubbles. This makes for some epic drool bombs.
  • You finally like swimming! It's so fun to see you splashing and smiling and TALKING in the pool! Plus, you're quite the charmer with your extra grandmas and the 8 year old girl who meet us at the pool most nights.
  • No matter how bad a mood you are in, I know that I can sing the first song from Jesus Christ Superstar to you and your face will brighten up big time. So cute!
  • We have new diaper covers coming for you. You know, the ones that the company said you wouldn't need until you're 9 months old. Big boy!
  • Baby bald spot? What baby bald spot? Yours has totally grown back in and you seem to be dirty blond. How the heck did that happen?! Daddy and I both have really dark brown hair. I think Dad's hair might even be black.
  • You are so beautiful. One of the other grandmas at the pool this month said that you are the cutest baby she has seen in years. I believe it! But don't let that go to your head ;-)
  • Also, you're learning manipulative skills. By that I mean that you know that if Daddy is sitting next to you in the car that you can scream and we'll stop and get you out for a bit. If he's not there you sleep peacefully until you really do need something. Smart boy...and I guess that means that from now on Dad sits up front with me on long trips.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Bear with me...

Work started 2 weeks ago and it's been craaaaaaaazy busy between the start of a new school year and at-home responsibilities. Posting will resume when I find my zen :)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Little Man, Month 4

Wow, I can't believe it's already been 4 months.

Little Man, you are just an explosion of new skills and love.

  • Holy moley you can keep yourself upright. You're still mostly doing what your dad and I lovingly call the "Sitting Gorilla Pose," but you're sitting straighter every day.
  • You're learning new things all the time: like if you kick the giraffe on your play gym the music will start playing and the butterflies move.
  • You also have learned that if you kick The Mama in the middle of the night she will wake up and feed you. Along the same lines, it's hilarious to watch you playing with your dad and he pretends to fall asleep with you sitting on his tummy. You lean forward, get an anticipatory smile on your face and coo quietly at him. And then you laugh and laugh when he "startles" awake.
  • You are responding to your name(s)! I know you have a lot of nicknames, but you seem to recognize most of them and you'll turn your head to say "what's up?"
  • Tummies are yummy, and you love it when I nom on yours.
  • You're not liking going to sleep these days, though. I think you're just so excited by all of the new things you're noticing that you don't want it to stop. And you're noticing e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. these days: the design on your play gym, my coffee cup, the pictures in books, your toys, my computer...and everything has to go into your mouth.
  • You can push yourself all the way up on your arms - elbows straight, in sort of the "Cobra Pose." Sometimes you fiddle with your legs and I swear you are thisclose to getting on your hands and knees.
  • Your dad showed me a new trick you have. He puts your pacifier in his mouth, you reach up, grab it, turn it, and then put it in your own mouth. It's rare that you get the right part in your mouth on the first try...but I'm still impressed!
  • Surefire way to get you to smile (if not laugh) no matter what mood you are in? Pick you up to see the baby in the mirror. I'm not sure whether what you were doing the other day was giving him kisses or trying to chew on him, but it was really funny to watch you mouthing the mirror.
  • I love how you sing along with us now, or with the music. Lately we've been putting you down for naps listening to Jesus Christ Superstar, and it's really fun to hear you coo along. Or when your dad and I are singing a song to you and you join in. Ah, it warms my heart.
  • And you are definitely a musical baby. You get a kick out of playing notes on the piano (and then trying to chew the piano) or plucking strings on dad's guitar or my ukulele.
  • Yesterday at the pool one of the other swimmers commented on how "serious" you are. And it's true. You don't just give away your joy and love to anyone at any time. You are an appraising baby - everything and everyone needs to pass inspection. Never mind that so far EVERYone has passed inspection with you - but you need to get to know someone first before you'll be the smiley, playful baby that you are with us. I love you, kiddo.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Long post coming up...

Anyone reading my blog at this point (Hi FIFs!) is a parent (or about to become a parent), so you know how life can be even during vacation times.

Tonight I had a momentary scare. This was one of those times where I grabbed my child, held him to my chest (annoying him greatly) and did the best check-over I could do while clasping him to me, listening to his breathing and smothering him in kisses.

He coughed. He's been coughing, but also drooling a LOT (probably teething, based on other things he's been doing). So initially the cough didn't give me pause. It was the whoooooooooooop that came at the end of his short cough sequence. I freaked out.

I live in California, where there is a whooping cough epidemic ongoing. Now, we don't get out much and the Little Man stays with us all day every day so there isn't much chance of him being exposed to anyone with - or carrying - whooping cough. But that sound terrified me.

Then I remembered - we just had visitors. Some of the Little Man's siblings came to see us, and their mother is fearful of vaccines. My husband tells me that he doesn't know about the youngest (not his biological child), but that for the two oldest the only vaccines they had were the bare minimums required for attendance at the Waldorf School. Needless to say, that did not ease my mind tonight.

There have been no more coughing episodes tonight, but I plan on watching him this weekend, taking his temperature frequently, and keeping the pediatrician's phone number handy in case he whoops again.

But then I got to thinking about the whole anti-vaccination movement. And I got angry. And I want to blog about it, but I don't want to put a bunch of stuff out there without any statistics to back me up. Vaccines are a very touchy subject (I know I'm touchy about it) and I don't want to come off as a blowhard. So I need to do some research on a lot of the points I want to make. And I have a LOT of points I want to make. Here's where you guys being new parents will understand...this will take some time. Life with an infant is busy, and definitely not conducive to dedicated study time. It's possible, it's just time consuming.

So there ya go. I'll be doing some research on this stuff and I'll be back with a post on my feelings on this subject. Seeya in a bit!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Song Lyrics

The Little Man loves music. It's a surefire way to put him to sleep, to get him in a better mood, and to make life in general better for everyone involved. It doesn't matter where he gets his music from, either. He can just as easily listen to music from the iPod speakers as he can when my husband or I play guitar and/or sing to him.

So the other day it was just the Little Man and me home for the afternoon. I laid him down on a blanket on the floor and put on some music. I started singing along with the music, looking into the little dude's eyes and getting lots of big smiles and coos from him. Then I heard myself sing this:

Voices whine
Skyscrapers are scraping together
Your voice is smoking
Last cigarettes are all you can get
Turning your orbit around

Ack! My kid isn't smoking cigarettes! I waited for the next song on the mix to come on. It was even worse.

I dreamed about killing you again last night
And it felt alright to me
Dying on the banks of Embarcadero skies
I sat and watched you bleed
Buried you alive in a fireworks display
Raining down on me
Your cold, hot blood ran away from me
To the sea

Both Jesus, Etc. and Via Chicago are songs that I love (and, by the way, if you get the opportunity to see Wilco perform it. They are awesome and fun and possibly my favorite band ever). But jeez. Those lyrics came on and Motherbrain took over. I started thinking about all the songs that I probably shouldn't play with him around, at least while he's pretty little. I mean, you never know what they're going to decide to perform in public, right?

My husband has a story about grocery shopping with the two oldest kids when they were little - like 3 and 4 years old - and getting death stares from middle-aged ladies in the produce department. It wasn't until then that he realized that his son and daughter were singing Someday Mother will die and we'll get the money (From "I Palindrome I" by They Might Be Giants) over and over again. Yeah, I don't want to be in that situation. I realize it's not a huge deal what other people think, but if I'm going to be watching my language around the kid then certainly the music I listen to shouldn't be filled with cussing, violence, or drug and alcohol references.

I need to listen to that stuff now while he's too young to repeat it and then give it up for a while.

So for the rest of the afternoon we listened to Sublime.